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freemasonry: Its hidden meaning
George H. STEINMETZ
What is the meaning of these words? It is not in a pedantic sense that I frequently refer to the dictionary for exact word definition, but in the interest of that harmony of mind so necessary between author and reader. Often, there is a subtle meaning in relation to some specific use which gives an entirely different conception of the word from the commonly accepted meaning.
"ENTER": "to go into, as a room; to join, or become a member of; to begin or take up, as a business; to gain admission for, as, to enter a pupil in a school; TO MAKE A BEGINNING."
"APPRENTICE": "One bound by agreement to serve another a certain number of years in return FOR INSTRUCTION IN A TRADE OR CRAFT; a novice or one slightly versed in anything; ONE PUT UNDER THE CARE OF A MASTER FOR INSTRUCTION in a trade or craft."
An "ENTERED APPRENTICE," more clearly understood, is "one who has just been admitted to the order; WHO IS MAKING A BEGINNING, and is bound to the lodge BY AN OBLIGATION TO PERFORM CERTAIN DUTIES, in return for which he is PUT UNDER THE CARE OF A MASTER (THE MASTER?) FOR INSTRUCTION in Freemasonry."
Every psychical phenomenon has a physical basis, therefore, the first degree of necessity must deal with the physical.
"Freemasonry regards no man for his worldly wealth or honours * * * it is the internal and not the external qualifications of a man which recommend him to Freemasons." This statement in the ritual is idealistic. I fear it is like St. Paul's definition of faith: "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not [yet] seen." In actual practice the man with no "material" standing in the community would discover as much difficulty in obtaining admission into a Masonic Lodge as we are informed a "rich man" encounters gaining admission into heaven. Unfortunately for the welfare of the order, far more concern is shown for the "external qualifications" than the "internal." Masonry was never intended for the multitudes; it is not enough that an applicant be a "good man," he should also possess the necessary, intellectual capacity to grasp more than the ethical lessons of the craft. He should be capable of understanding its underlying philosophy.
The ritual intends to convey the thought that regardless of material station in life, social, business or financial, all enter the Lodge on an equal basis. The quotation from the ritual is a spiritual explanation of what is meant by being "worthy and well qualified." What then is the spiritual meaning symbolized by the manner of being prepared? Even though "duly and truly prepared," none enter on an equal basis, for some are blessed by nature with better physiques than others. The inner man, however, is not distinguished by raiment or body. All are Sons of God and equal, POTENTIALLY. Here is the true explanation.
We are told to have patience for a far more important reason than the one offered at the time. The real reason is to teach the method of operation of creative thought. Thought is creative. Nothing has ever been created in the universe except by thought. God is not material; He creates by thought; and man, in his image, must also create by thought. "The end of a work is in the thought in the beginning." A great book, a beautiful composition of music, a lovely painting - all are created in the mind of the artist by thought, and thought alone. Man, within certain limitations, creates conditions in the material world by his thinking. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." This truth holds good whether man thinks good or evil; he is "as he thinketh."
Are not evil actions the culmination of evil thoughts? Likewise, it is necessary to "think" good deeds, acts of charity, kind services, ere they are effected; and thus it follows that, noting a man's good deeds we call him good. The evil man is called vile because of his evil actions. In each case is not the man then RECOGNIZED to be what he THOUGHT himself to be? This is direct working of impersonal law. The choice is entirely with man; the Law works out the results - "as a man thinketh" - CAUSE - "so is he" - resultant condition or EFFECT.
Let us further examine this statement that "as a man thinketh, so is he." It appears that in one respect we have no choice; we cannot change the Law of Creative Thought, but we can definitely control what we shall be, for the answer to that is also in the statement. We shall be what we THINK ourselves. Here we HAVE THE POWER OF CHOICE; we can choose what we THINK ourselves to be, and by so doing control what we shall be, even though we cannot control the law. You do not change the law, you change the application. It is the same in the material world. The iron ship floats by the same law by which the piece of iron sinks. Again it is application.
It is not the universal law of mind that an individual may at once become "as he thinketh." Spiritually, the effect is immediate, for on the spiritual plane there is no "time," and we are immediately what we think ourselves to be; but even after thinking the proper creative thought we have not complied with all the requirements. These are the same on the spiritual plane as on the material plane; if they were not, our material lessons would be useless to us.
These requirements are, first: "it must be of our own free will and accord." We must have the desire. That desire must be "unbiased by the improper solicitations of friends, " and it must be "uninfluenced by mercenary motives." The only motive which will admit us is a "desire for knowledge," and even that must be "unselfish." But all this is not sufficient. We discover we must be "duly and truly prepared" as well as "worthy and well qualified." And we must ourselves give the "knock." This is not done for us. Even when the knock is heard and the door mat opened we are not immediately admitted. Other formalities are necessary within the lodge, and we are forced to wait a time.
Here is where patience is essential. Patience is part of the preparation. Even those with pure motives, "worthy and well qualified," must acquire patience as a virtue. Should the candidate at the door of the lodge become impatient and refuse to wait until the proper action takes place within the lodge, of which he has no knowledge, he would never gain admission. just so in the spiritual realm. When we desire to materialize our thoughts into definite, specific action and become impatient for its manifestation in our material life it never happens. We have turned away from the door before the affirmative answer has been returned. The analogy is exact, for the candidate never fails to gain admission when the law, of the lodge is complied with. The same is true on the spiritual plane. Comply with the LAW of Creative Thought and it will never fail to respond in the affirmative.
There is a Universal Law of which we shall learn more as we advance, for Masonry is a progressive science. This law is founded on universal principles, among which is a negative as well as a positive result, not by action but rather by application. As an example, we have transmission gears in an automobile. To reverse the car we do not change the direction of the engine's rotation, but by applying the reverse gear we move the car backward with the same engine rotation with which we propel it forward. Universal Law is the same. It moves in only one direction, AFFIRMATIVELY. But, by mis-application, we do obtain negative results. This lesson may be learned from a sharp instrument. It has the potentiality of becoming an instrument of torture if so applied, but of itself it is impersonal, desiring neither to do good nor harm. The final result is dependent on the reaction to it of the person whom it confronts.
The teaching that one's faith is well founded when his trust is in God is not new, but it is one of the greatest lessons encountered in Masonry. And if the meaning is correctly understood, it gives a firm foundation on which to build the spiritual explanation of the entire ceremony of initiation. That theory can be applied without inconsistency to the entire Masonic structure. Thus interpreted, Freemasonry is Mental Science, demonstrating that God, the Infinite, is in all, through all, and IS all. This is the God in whom the Mason places his trust, the God to whom he kneels and prays.
When one arises from a kneeling position he raises his body to a higher level. When the arising is spiritual, or mental, he attains a higher level of consciousness. When this is applied to the mental process, with a real trust in God, he rises to a higher level of awareness, and his "conductor," conscience, or "that still small voice," becomes a guide on whom he can truly rely "with confidence." The higher the reach of this awareness, the more nearly in tune with the Infinite does that inner guidance become. Therefore, with a well founded faith, a conductor upon whom he can rely and who is able to "see man needs fear nothing. His consciousness is far above the material plane where any acts of man can harm. The candidate is not kept in this condition for long, neither is the individual whom he typifies. For when man attains the attitude of soul where he can declare his trust is in God - can arise, spiritually, and follow his conductor - he is quickly led from darkness into everlasting LIGHT.
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light; and there was light." This Divine Fiat does not refer to the physical light of the heavenly bodies. In the story of creation it is definitely stated that they were created at a later time. This light, commanded to be, was the Great Light of which the ancients taught that the Sun was but a representation and a reflection.
On the physical plane it is light through the reflection of the Sun; on the intellectual plane it is enlightenment. Thus the candidate is first given material light in the ancient form practised in the Lodge, then intellectual light by the interpretation of the symbols which he is enabled to behold by the physical light given him. And as the Divine Fiat was the beginning of life in the Universe - the Great Lodge - so the Master's command is the beginning of life for the candidate in the earthly Lodge.
Just as the candidate's attention is directed to one group of lights which he is able to see with the aid of the "REPRESENTATIVES" of another group, we will here direct attention to the fact that, while there will be subsequent changes in the position of two of those of the first group, there will be no change in the Holy Bible. Comment on the significance of these two sets of lights will be reserved until later, when other subject matter better lends itself to their explanation. For the present no space need be given to discussing the spiritual aspect of the Bible. While it is far richer in its spiritual instruction, it also contains invaluable information for the living of a successful life on the material plane. The Entered Apprentice degree being material, it is these material admonitions which are of most interest to the Apprentice Mason.
Our next concern should be an investigation of the symbology of the Square and Compasses and an understanding of the meaning of the Square being placed above the Compasses. There is definite reason for this position.
We must not look with contempt upon the learning of the ancient world. The enlightened individual of those times apparently knew as much, or more, about the unnerve as do we. The popular conception, however was that the earth was flat and square, and the heavens enclosed it, extending above in a mighty dome.
A Square is an instrument whereby planes and surfaces are measured; the Compasses is an instrument for the measuring of spheres. Symbolically, the Square represents the earth, and the Compasses the heavens. The next logical step was to use the Square to symbolize all material things and, as the "heavens" and "spiritual" came to be used synonymously, it was but natural the Compasses was used generally to symbolize whatever pertained to the spiritual.
The "cube" was emblematic of man because, when unfolded, it becomes a cross, representing the physical body of man, standing erect with arms outstretched to the sides. As a "cube" viewed from one side appears a square, and, as a square was the symbol of the material or physical, it at times was also used to symbolize material man. The Compasses, symbolizing the spiritual, was used to represent spiritual man, differentiated from the material man. 1
With this explanation is the materiality of the first degree demonstrated. The Square is emphasized by being placed above the Compasses," and the explanation of the use of the Square is offered before that of the Compasses, despite the fact that Masonically the Compasses is recognized as the more important symbol.
Both the Square and Compasses are symbolical of man. The Square, the material man, the Compasses, the spiritual man. And, as the Square is placed above the Compasses, we are to understand that in this degree the material dominates the spiritual. This could not be otherwise, for the candidate as yet knows nothing of the Truth of Freemasonry, and has not learned to circumscribe his desires and practice those virtues which will eventually enable the spiritual man to control the life of the individual. Because of ignorance and false thinking, man has travelled far from the spiritual, his starting point, and the material man has taken full possession. This is where we now discover him, kneeling at the altar, admitting he is in the darkness of ignorance, supplicating for guidance toward the light. He must retrace his steps from the material to the spiritual. He is but starting to do so; he is an ENTERED APPRENTICE.
Just as do we, the ancients postulated an Infinite Creator. Being the "first" complete figure which can geometrically be drawn - the triangle. We have come to regard the ancients as polytheists, and this is correct as applied to the masses, but the learned were monotheists. They believed in ONE Supreme Being with three aspects. As stated, a triangle was the logical symbol for such a deity, it being the first geometrical figure which can be formed, thereby indicating "FIRST CAUSE." It is endless as a design, thereby signifying "that which has no beginning nor, ending" the ETERNAL. It is composed of three sides, and in the equilateral triangle each is of equal length, thus symbolizing the three equal attributes of God: The Creator, the Preserver , the Destroyer - Brahma, Vishnu, Siva of the Hindu; the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, or Great Three in One of Orthodox Christianity. Some confusion may develop in the mind of the reader unfamiliar with symbology, and this may be an opportune time to offer a clarifying explanation before we enter more fully into the subject. One great difficulty in the beginning of the study of symbology is our expectation of discovering immutable meaning. Such is not the case. The meaning of symbols, like words, is largely predicated by the specific use and association. If one says: "The Scotch are a thrifty RACE," the word "race" is used in an entirely different sense than if he asks: "Which horse won the RACE?"
A right angle triangle is usually symbolic of the complete man (as referred to in the Bible, composed of Body, Soul and Spirit). It may also have almost any spiritual reference desired, dependent strictly on how used. An equilateral triangle with an angle pointing upward always symbolizes the PERFECT (spiritual) man, not to be confused with the complete man. The same equilateral triangle with an angle pointing downward is never symbolical of anything but Deity. With this explanation we may continue with a clearer concept of meanings.
On page 64, in connection with the pillar of that name, is found an explanation of the meaning of Boaz. In view of that explanation it is discovered that the word was not chosen at random, but has a fitting and peculiar meaning. As used in this degree, it has reference to the STRENGTH of the physical, in relation to the WISDOM of the psychical and the BEAUTY of the spiritual (this being the material degree of Masonry). It likewise should be a reminder to the Apprentice that his start in Freemasonry was strictly of his own PERSONAL CHOICE. All things in symbolism have meaning if we but discover the key. The best assurance of being on the right track is that our interpretations be separately reasonable and collectively consistent. Again, referring to the meaning of the names of the two columns, and applying that interpretation to a physical position well known to the Apprentice, we discover "Boaz," the column on the LEFT, typifies "personal choice." "Jachin," the column on the RIGHT, signifies "LAW." Thus it is disclosed that by "personal choice" certain "symbols" are "supported," and are maintained in that position by "Universal Law." To be more explicit would be a Masonic indiscretion. It is hoped the reader is familiar enough with the ceremony of initiation to benefit by this explanation, vague as it necessarily must be. A more material explanation is that one may grasp the great "enlightenments" which, for the first time, are offered. Thereafter it is a reminder to one that he grasped the essentials of Freemasonry, for these three particular symbols are the very essentials of all Masonic teaching.
The flap of an apron turned up appears as a triangle surmounting a square, the square being the lower portion of the apron, In this position it symbolizes the "two" men separated. The square below is the material man with no spiritual part. The triangle above represents the spiritual, hovering over, but not yet having entered the material. In evolution it depicts the "brute-man" before the advent of the spiritual, which we term the dawn of conscience. The ancients' axiom: "As above, so below" is recalled. What is the counterpart "above" of this symbology? It is the story of creation. The triangle, or flap, is the Spirit of God, hovering above the waters (the material) from which He is about to manifest the material universe.
The working tools of an Entered Apprentice are: "The TWENTY-FOUR INCH GAUGE and the COMMON GAVEL. They are thus used: The TWENTY-FOUR INCH GAUGE is an instrument made use of by operative masons to measure and lay out their work; but we, as Free and Accepted Masons are taught to make use of it for the more noble and glorious purpose of dividing our time. Being divided into twenty-four equal parts, it is emblematic of the twenty-four hours of the day, which we are taught to divide into three equal parts; whereby are found eight hours for the service of God and a distressed worthy brother, eight for our usual vocations and eight for refreshment and sleep." The first two services are coupled, and the inference is plain that in assisting a worthy distressed brother we are serving God. This is in complete harmony with the teaching of the Bible: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, ye have done it unto me."
Another third of our time is to be devoted to "our usual vocations," while the remaining third is "for refreshment and sleep." This is rendering unto Caesar, or the material, the things which are Caesar's, and unto God, the spiritual, the things which are God's. We are to serve God and the worthy brother, but we are also to "render" the proper time to our vocations or means of livelihood, and "render" to the body its just due by attending to its needs, "refreshment and deep." On careful analysis it is discovered that to do the last two we also serve God, for again we are reminded that one cannot benefit an undivided portion of a thing without promoting the interests of the "whole." Despite the beauty of this ethical teaching there is a greater underlying spiritual truth. Grasping the TWENTY-FOUR INCH GAUGE by the centre portion we see it to be a horizontal, symbol of the material or physical. Turn the left-hand third upward, thereby forming a ninety degree angle, and we have not only formed a square but we have raised a perpendicular, symbol of the psychical, the soul with its intuitive "upward" aspirations. Move this third slightly to the right, bringing the right hand third up to meet it, and an equilateral triangle has been formed with an angle pointing upward, symbol of the PERFECT or DIVINE MAN. which the Apprentice aspires to become - in fact, the symbol of the ONLY GOAL he should have had in view if his original declarations were sincere. Here in this one instrument is the ENTIRE teaching of Masonry: the progress from the material man to the PERFECT DIVINE MAN, made in God's own image. Also, the method of achieving success is symbolized: give equal attention to each level of existence, the physical, psychical and spiritual, for each being one third, we are taught that each is ,equally important to form the complete whole. "The COMMON GAVEL is an instrument made use of by operative masons to break off the corners of rough stones, the better to fit them for the builder's use; but we, as Free and Accepted Masons, are taught to make use of it for the more noble and glorious purpose of divesting our hearts and consciences of all the vices and superfluities of life, thereby fitting our minds as living stones, for that spiritual building, that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."
This explanation involves a significant fact of mental science. We divest our HEARTS and CONSCIENCES of all the vices and superfluities of life, but we do not fit them (our hearts and consciences), to become anything. It is the MIND that we are told is being fitted to become a living stone, because the MIND is the image of God. The body's only claim to consideration is the fact that for the time being it is the house the MIND inhabits, while fitting itself for its greater destiny. Masonry has but one mission - to teach the truth of our being, which will fit the mind for its destined place in the Universe.
Here is a bold and unreserved statement of fact - the symbolical illustration is evident. There is no concealment behind a veil of allegory. Freed of poetic phrasing and expressed in every-day English, it informs us that "our minds" are all the "WE" that exists. They are to be transformed into stones of a building "not made with hands," hence not material. Separate stones in any building retain their individuality even after being combined into one solid mass. Thus, the simile, carried to its logical conclusion, indicates the need of the Great Architect of the Universe for CERTAIN STONES for SPECIFIC PLACES in the finished Temple. It also draws aside the veil for a fleeting moment and hints at the continuing self consciousness of the individual ego.
That the mind takes its place in a "Temple eternal in the heavens" implies that it is eternally evolving toward abiding perfection. Infinity is not composed of past or future, but only an EVERLASTING PRESENT; it is an ETERNAL NOW!
Here is a real "being brought from darkness to light" - the discovery: "WHAT WE ARE," "WHY WE ARE," "WHAT WE ARE TO BE." This discovery presents to doubting minds an intellectual foundation for hope. It reveals a REASON to our "finite intelligence" for "Infinite Intelligence" to have quarried us, as individuals, out of the unknown quarry of infinity. It furnishes a motive for the present shaping of our lives.
A "material lesson" is exemplified by a certain request made of the candidate, which is explained to him on that occasion. At one time it is said to have been the usage, after initiation in the first degree, to ask the candidate to write all he remembered of what had occurred "that it might be laid up in the archives of the Lodge, etc." If the candidate started to write the pen was struck from his hand. This dramatization was the basis for a lecture on the proneness of man to lightly regard his "solemn obligations." The incident was used to warn him that he must be constantly on guard if he hoped to accomplish that "subjugation of the human" which is the objective of every Mason.
Each of these rites of initiation springs from the ancient Mysteries, but are confusions of the original. The ancient philosophy taught four classifications of data:
"THINGS WE KNOW." These are only things known to us through personal experience. We KNOW we exist. We KNOW other people exist. We KNOW steel is hard. We KNOW glass is brittle and will break.
"THINGS WE ASSUME TO KNOW." The everyday facts we ASSUME to know, and by them guide our actions. We ASSUME TO KNOW that a certain man is our father, a certain woman is our mother, but we cannot KNOW, in terms of personal knowledge. We ASSUME TO KNOW the earth is round, that it rotates on its axis, and revolves about the Sun, but few have demonstrated this so they may state they KNOW from personal experience.
"THINGS WE BELIEVE." There are many things we believe, which we neither KNOW nor even ASSUME TO KNOW. Followers of certain religions have BELIEVED in a god or gods. Christians BELIEVE in Jesus Christ. It is claimed by many that they are inspired to believe, but none can claim to KNOW from personal experience, nor can they ASSUME TO KNOW because of the experience of others.
"THINGS OF WHICH WE ADMIT OUR IGNORANCE." These things we do not KNOW, ASSUME TO KNOW, or profess to BELIEVE. Of the stars, we KNOW of their existence, we admit our ignorance of the number of stars in the heavens. We would not even speculate on the number of grains of sand on the sea shores, or where space begins and ends.
This is said to have been explained to the candidate in the Mysteries, and he was then requested to write those things of which he could say "I KNOW." In those ancient days only the few were learned, knew of the Mysteries, and were "prompted to solicit the privileges of the order by a favourable opinion conceived of the institution." When a man who rightfully considered himself far above the average intelligence, in knowledge, was brought face to face with the actual fact of HOW LITTLE HE REALLY KNEW, he learned a valuable lesson. The vast disparity between what he REALLY KNEW and the tremendous store of knowledge yet to be acquired by him revealed to him "his destitute condition."
If ever he entertained intellectual egotism, it turned to a deep sense of humility. If he were "worthy and well qualified" a great and sincere desire was born for "more light," and thus, in humbleness and truth, he took up his quest. It also taught him that should he ever meet a brother in like destitute condition he should administer to his needs. We too often envision lack of worldly possessions when we think of destitution. There is far worse poverty in which man finds himself; it is that destitution of mind and spirit - IGNORANCE. What more lasting benefaction can one confer upon a fellow man, "worthy and distressed" than en-LIGHT-enment?
It is the intention to discuss only those questions of the proficiency examination as will illuminate the Secret Doctrine. Being mindful of the fact that many allusions to these questions and answers must of themselves be veiled, the reader may gain more satisfaction from the following explanations if he refreshes his mind on the examination before proceeding further.
Consider the first question asked the Entered Apprentice. The Bible describes man as made in the image of God. Before his "temptation and fall," allegorically narrated in the story of the Garden of Eden, he was perfect. It is to this original state of perfection the candidate alludes. It is obvious the answer is not literal, so it can only be allegorical. To understand the allegory it is necessary to understand the terminology used. The Bible refers to two "Jerusalems": one the material city of that name, the other the symbolic "Holy City." The meaning of the Hebrew word "Jerusalem," as generally translated, is given as a "place or city of perfect peace." But the last syllables, "shalom," do not convey their true Hebrew meaning when translated "peace." They imply far more: "wholeness" - "completeness in all parts" - "complete, inferring perfection"; thus, "completeness of being."
"John" from the Hebrew "Jochonan" or "Yochonan," means "favored of God, or "favored by God." "Lodge" is a very elastic word of many inferences. There is the "Masonic Lodge," embracing all Masonry; the specific "Lodge," meaning a room; also the specific "Lodge," meaning a constituted membership, irrespective of where they may be; "the Lodge on High," which refers, not to a place, but to a state of existence. A "Lodge of Jerusalem," then, would be a i "state of existence, in completeness of being, favored o f God." No reason is given why anyone should leave such a state of existence. For that answer one must refer to the story of the Garden of Eden. Suffice for our purposes that the answer indicates the candidate's familiarity with all these facts, and also a knowledge of the means of remedying his condition. Psychically, he desires to LEARN. From a material viewpoint, he wishes to subdue his passions. Spiritually, he desires to improve himself in Freemasonry. What then is this Freemasonry in which he de sires to improve himself? Elsewhere it has been defined as the "subjugation of the human that is in man by the Divine." It is through this subjugation that he eventually REGAINS his lost estate, his Divinity.
Subtly, it is brought out in the next question and answer that he has not yet regained his Divinity, even though he has attained to the degree of Entered Apprentice. In the question, which is in the form of an inquisitive statement, the word "PRESUME" is prominent. The candidate replies with no categorical statement, his answer concurs in the presumption.
Previously it was stated that the first degree dealt with the material, and this fact is emphasized by the manner in which an Apprentice claims he may be known. The Fellow-craft lecture states: "The five human senses are HEARING, SEEING, FEELING, SMELLING and TASTING; the first three of which are deemed peculiarly essential among Freemasons." Added to these material means are the perfect points of entrance.
"Perfect" is defined as: "Without defect, lacking nothing. Fully skilled and accomplished." Therefore the "perfect," or "fully skilled and accomplished," entrance into Freemasonry is illustrated by the four cardinal virtues of TEMPERANCE, FORTITUDE, PRUDENCE and JUSTICE. Here is the instruction that the TRUE MASON may be known by HIS CONDUCT. This is also one of the reasons why the statement is later made to the candidate that it is not known if he will ever become a Mason. On serious consideration the reasonableness of this statement becomes apparent. How can it be known if any individual will ever became a Master Mason, IN FACT? It cannot be known whether he will guide his life by the constructive principles outlined in Masonic teaching, and so conduct himself that he will reach his goal.
What makes a man a Mason? Is it the mere promise to "do certain things" and "refrain from doing certain other things" which we term an "obligation"? More correctly, this but binds him to the Fraternity, makes him a MEMBER of the material organization we call a "Lodge"; but it in nowise makes him a Mason. That which makes him a Mason is "THAT OBLIGATION" each individual owes to Deity.
Here we discover that all the truths of Freemasonry are not elucidated in exact chronological order, but are found scattered and hidden throughout the ritual and actual workings of the Lodge. In an unexpected place we discover more light on the nature of the "obligation." It is contained in the prayer offered in the regular closing of the Lodge. The pertinent portion of that prayer is as follows: "Pardon, we beseech Thee, whatever Thou hast seen amiss in us since we have been together, and continue to us Thy presence, protection and blessing. MAKE US SENSIBLE OF THE RENEWED OBLIGATIONS WE ARE UNDER TO LOVE THEE; and as we are about to separate and return to our respective places of abode, wilt Thou be pleased so to influence our hearts and minds that we may, each one of us, PRACTICE OUT OF THE LODGE THOSE GREAT MORAL DUTIES WHICH ARE INCULCATED IN IT, and with reverence study and obey the laws which Thou hast given us in Thy Holy Word."
Here is the "obligation" which makes a man a Mason: The "OBLIGATION WE ARE UNDER TO LOVE THEE"; the "obligation" to PRACTICE OUT OF THE LODGE THOSE GREAT MORAL DUTIES INCULCATED IN IT"; the "obligation" to "improve oneself in Freemasonry"; to grow from the potential to the Ideal Man. This development may be attained by the practice of the cardinal virtues and by conforming one's life to the plans of the Supreme Architect as it is given to understand them. Thus the candidate discovers that, IN A SENSE, his "obligation" has made him a Mason, not of itself, but through his recognition of his obligation.
A desire originating in the heart, in contradistinction to the cold logic of the objective mind, is an intuitive desire for spiritual advancement. THE REAL DESIRE to become a Mason is a "desire for knowledge," an unselfish desire, and it cannot be actuated by any other motives. When the applicant sincerely subscribes to the lofty sentiment of his original declaration he may truthfully claim the desire originates in his heart.
The fact that this degree is material has been pointed out in a number of instances, and there remains further evidence of this thesis. One need but visualize the position of the candidate described as that "due form," together with the symbolic import of the "square." A custom of Operative Masonry will also substantiate this assertion.
In Operative Masonry it is customary to lay the cornerstone of a structure in the north-east corner. A corner-stone laying is generally made an occasion of ceremony, and is symbolical of the nominal starting point of the building. Thus, this custom of placing it in the north-east corner indicates that at that particular point the first step toward the actual construction of the edifice was commenced.
When thus placed, it is then and there that spiritual evolution begins; and that evolution is just as definitely in harmony with Universal Law as is material evolution. Material evolution advances the RACE to a relative level. ALL are placed in the north-east corner, upon the first step; ALL are given an EQUAL opportunity. Thenceforward the individual must do for himself what evolution (the Lodge) previously did for him, and his further advancement is strictly his INDIVIDUAL, PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY.
1 For a more extensive explanation of the symbology of the Square and Compasses see The Royal Arch - Its Hidden Meaning, pages 86 and 122.
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